Considered synonymous, child emotional and psychological abuse (hereafter referred to as psychological abuse) is a type of maltreatment that can be difficult for clinicians to detect and assess. Increasingly thought to be the most prevalent form of child maltreatment, psychological abuse involves nonphysical interactions by a caregiver toward a child, including acts of commission that place a child at risk for emotional harm. Pertinent issues for pediatricians include its prevalence, its determinants and risk factors, its negative short- and long-term outcomes, how to assess psychological abuse, and how to collaborate with child protection agencies.

Psychological abuse is arguably the most poorly understood form of child maltreatment; compared with physical and sexual abuse, much less is known about its presentation, causes, consequences, prevention, and treatment. For the pediatrician, a key part of identifying psychological abuse is being attuned to interactions between children and their caregivers. Psychological abuse of a child...

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